Meet… Susi Woodhouse

Susi Woodhouse

Susi Woodhouse

MusiCB3: What has your road to librarianship been?
Susi Woodhouse: Goodness, that was light years ago, but like Margaret, it just sort of happened. I read music here (at Newnham) in the early seventies and then got a job in the UL Music Department for a year working with Derek Williams and Hugh Taylor. Huge fun, and any mistakes in the secondary music card catalogue are probably mine…

…then I went and learned how to be a librarian at UCL, enrolling for their Postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship and after that was employed at the (then relatively new) British Library in the Descriptive Cataloguing Team of the Bibliographic Services Division.  Just think, UKMARC was hot off the press at the time and AACR 1 was all the rage. Anyone remember PRECIS indexing? Been there, puzzled over that.  I moved around different areas at BL BSD for several years getting a good grounding in the three Rs of librarianship as well as an understanding of how the profession fitted together at national level, and quickly got drawn into the activities of the (then) Library Association’s Cagtaloguing and Indexing Group, LA Council and a number of other national committees.

During the 80s, I looked after the music service for Ealing Libraries at the time when the CD was white hot technology and got to build up CD collections for the Borough from scratch. It’s a heady feeling pushing a shopping trolley round a recording company’s warehouse with a Very Healthy Budget. That was when I first became involved with the [then] UK Branch of IAML.

Several chess-board moves later (including putting together the very first national Library and Information Plan for Music), I found myself at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) working with the National Lottery to manage the £170M People’s Network project, which brought broad-band to all UK public libraries, supported an ICT training programme for all the staff and included £50M for the digitisation of public sector content.

…and now, here I am working three mornings each week as a volunteer (and thoroughly enjoying it) in the UL Music Department gradually documenting the concert programme collections and contributing to work on the Hans Keller and Charles Cudworth arvchives – oh, and writing for MusicB3 of course. The wheel has turned full circle.

What do you like most about the Pendlebury Library/the University Library’s Music Collection?

An example of Grove's extensive annotations in the programme [University Library concert programme collections]

An example of Grove’s extensive annotations in the programme [University Library concert programme collections]

SW: They are wonderful collections aren’t they? The sheer variety is mind-boggling and you never know quite what you are going to find next. We have some fascinating archives each with their own stories to tell (many to be found elsewhere in MusicB3) and some beautiful individual items as well as almost any piece of music you could imagine. How marvellous that the majority of it is on open access and can be borrowed.

Do you read any foreign languages?
SW: Ermmm, well, I can manage in French and can navigate around title pages of scores in German, Italian and Spanish but I can’t pretend to any real linguistic ability.

What do you like about working in Cambridge most?
SW: How long have you got? It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, where you can listen to music almost every day of the week in buildings which take your breath away. Its history is tangible and when I think of all the great names who have passed through here, and who are here today, it’s overwhelming. How lucky I am to walk down Trinity Street at 9.00am and hear the clocks in Trinity Great Court, Great St. Mary’s, Clare and Caius all strike nearly-but-not-quite together.

Best day at work?
SW: Has to be a dank day last October when I discovered a St. James’s Hall concert programme annotated by Sir George Grove lurking in a particularly dusty box.

What is/are your most favourite composer(s)/type(s) of musics?
SW: Can one have a “most” favourite? Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Berlioz would be my “mighty handful”. I can’t imagine life without the B minor mass or the 48, or almost all of Mozart’s and Beethoven’s output, or Haydn’s quartets and the symphonies, nor yet Berlioz’s wonderful Les Troyens. I’m a sucker for the songs of the 30s and 40s (my grandmother used to sing me to sleep with Al Bowlly’s Goodnight sweetheart) and share my late father’s enjoyment of Fats Waller. Music’s the best kind of drug isn’t it?

001Where did you live before moving to the region?
SW: Hove, on the south coast, before that Ealing in London and I grew up in deepest Somerset.

What is/are your instrument(s)?
SW: Oh dear. Rusty piano and even rustier violin.

Any hidden talents?
SW: Of course, but if I told you, they wouldn’t be hidden would they? But there’s a clue in the image above…

Susi Woodhouse has been a volunteer in the UL’s Music Department since 2008.

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